Chances are a running back will be the first player to come off the board in your fantasy league unless one of your fellow owners has a serious crush on Michael Vick or is the father/mother/sibling/spouse of a current NFL player. Running backs no longer the first dozen players off the board in fantasy football -- and honestly, that makes things much more interesting -- but an elite back is still the way to go if you're picking first overall.
I’ve seen varying opinions on which player is the top back in fantasy football, and you can’t really go wrong with any of these guys. But for me, it’s an easy decision. I’m taking Peterson all day, just like his nickname.
There’s nothing worse than drafting a fantasy bust first overall, so I like to go for a sure thing, and that’s Peterson, who has been at least a top-five fantasy running back in each of the past three seasons. You can’t say that about any other player as the NFL -- and fantasy football, too -- goes all pass-happy on us.
So we know that if another back supplants him as the top fantasy back like Chris Johnson did in 2009 or when Arian Foster came out of nowhere last season, Peterson, barring injury, will be right behind him -- with your squad on his back.
On to the running back rankings…
1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Facing eight men in the box is a concern, but he’s shown he can still produce.
2. Arian Foster, Texans: A drop-off is possible, but it’s unlikely because this is an ideal situation for him.
3. Chris Johnson, Titans: If he is still holding out two weeks from now, start sliding him down this list.
4. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs: He’ll get plenty of touches, but will Le’Ron McClain vulture some inside the five?
5. Ray Rice, Ravens: I was high on him last year, too. Now it seems they are serious about running the rock.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars: Not sure why everyone is worried about MJD. He’ll get his this season.
9. LeSean McCoy, Eagles: Note that he is much more effective when Michael Vick is under center.
11. Darren McFadden, Raiders: Last season was great and all, but he can’t duplicate it in street clothes.
15. Matt Forte, Bears: He’s a great fit for Mike Martz’s offense and the line should at least be a little better.
24. Ryan Grant, Packers: Formerly a top-10 fantasy back, Grant rejoins one of the NFL’s best offenses.
25. Daniel Thomas, Dolphins: The Dolphins gave their running attack a makeover, starting with this rookie.
27. Willis McGahee, Broncos: Take a late-round flyer on Willis, who will get a larger workload in Denver.
30. Cedric Benson, Bengals: He’ll get you around 1,000 yards and a few scores at 3.5 yards per pop.
If you really want to draft a rookie…
Make it Mark Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner who landed in a great spot with the Saints.
Three running backs with sleeper potential…
2. Ryan Grant: He has had nearly a full year to rehab his ankle, and he’s better than James Starks right now.
3. Willis McGahee: Like I said, I really like McGahee’s situation in Denver. He could become the starter.
Three running backs I would draft with caution…
1. Jonathan Stewart: I’m done with “The Daily Show,” who squandered his chance to start last season.
2. Joseph Addai: He’s a good pass blocker, so that will keep him on the field until a youngster forces him off.
3. Felix Jones and C.J. Spiller: Neither of these speedsters has proved they can carry the load in the NFL.
(For my fantasy football quarterback rankings, released on Monday, click this link right here.)
Matt Vensel is a blogger and community coordinator for The Baltimore Sun. Send your fantasy questions and comments to Matt.Vensel@baltsun.com, @mattvensel on Twitter or leave them in the comments section below.